Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, December 3, 2015

For The Love Of A Dog #2

No matter their age dogs are laughter generators.  One of the things noticeable with a puppy is all the "first" times.  When Xena first saw a swirling pile of fallen leaves on an autumn walk through the woods, she kept jumping up to catch them and spinning in circles.  The most magical time for her was her first taste of snow.  She never changed in all the years I knew her.  She would chase thrown snow balls until my arm nearly fell off barking with glee at every toss.  She would dig huge holes as if the drifts were dirt or sand sticking her head far inside the created tunnel.

As a puppy when Xena was truly tired and completely content, she would sleep on her back with all four legs sticking straight up in the air.  It was hilarious to see.  Even in her old age she made me smile over and over again.  It got to be a challenge to give her some pills; her sense of smell was amazing.  I would place them in pill pockets, then liverwurst, and then back to pill pockets rolled in crushed dog treats.  Every single time she would know when one held the nasty-tasting medicine.  She would spit it back out as if she was in a watermelon seed spitting contest.  With a poof it would arc in the air falling nearly two feet away.  She would give me a look.  I would give her a look and then burst out laughing.

In her first picture book author illustrator Jo Williamson gives us an inside look at the way dogs view their place in our world.  How To Be a Dog (little bee books, an imprint of Bonnier Publishing Group, August 25, 2015) is written by a dog for dogs.  It's an instruction manual packed with tried and true hints and loads of grins.

A very big Woof to all you dogs!
Here is my guide to help you have some fun and be happy in your new home...
Just don't tell those humans!

With an introduction like that we humans know giggles are only a tail wag away.  Essential to true bliss is selecting the right human which is no easy task.  It appears we all look alike to our canine companions.

Finding the quintessential place to sleep is not exactly simple as dogs can be found snoring away nearly anywhere but you will know when you find it.  Be sure to greet your new pal and visitors accordingly.  Knocking someone over to give them a slobbery kiss is perfectly normal.

When it comes to toilet training the sooner the better is best for all concerned.  Reading the paper in the bathroom might not be what your human had in mind but a dog is a dog.  There are a variety of ways to obtain "food glorious food."  Hovering around the table, sad eyes or a musical routine might do the trick.

A game of fetch could become tedious for your new friend so why not try something out of the ordinary. Checkmate!  You will meet and greet other pooches in the neighborhood.  Be prepared for a lot of sniffing and some who are a bit cranky.  You will soon engage in those activities best loved by you and your human but there will be consequences.  Will you care?  You and your human...best buddies forever.

If I could I would ask Jo Williamson right now if she is part dog.  Her insights into their behavior at the very least suggest many hours spent in observation.  She takes us with comical phrases through the basics of proper dog behavior but continually manages to evoke a sense of growing affection between the dogs and their humans.  Here is another sample passage.

To get extra treats, pretend that you have not been fed.
If that doesn't work... (page turn)
...you may need to learn some new tricks.
shake  roll  twirl  sing  dance  balance

If you look closely at the array of dogs on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case, you will see quite a bit of action and reactions by those gathered there.  The one in the lower left-hand corner seems to be watching another dog.  As your eyes travel to the left, at the back, you will see a dog, leg lifted, relieving himself on the ISBN.  The turquoise from the front is only shown on the top and bottom in large loose stripes.  On the white background are five pairs of canines and the humans they have chosen.  The similarities between the humans and the dogs are sure to elicit smiles.

The main colors in the book, gray, black and red, showcase all kinds of dogs doing all kinds of things in many positions on the opening endpapers.  (I dare you not to laugh.)  On the closing endpapers the narrator of this story is shown with his human in total satisfaction.  (I dare you not to sigh.)  With a turn of the page the verso shows a human reaching to grab a moving dog's tail.  The dog is watching a butterfly.  This is the only time yellow is found in the book.  On the opposite page the story begins.

Jo Williamson alters her image presentations between single pages and double page spreads.  These contribute to the narrative's pacing with excellence.  The placement of the color turquoise elevates the impact of what the dog is saying.  Her images add to the humor by frequently showing something other than what the text implies.  Loose lines, soft texture and the eyes of her characters will draw readers into the story's comedic charm.

One of my favorite illustrations is the series showing the places dogs can find to sleep; an open dresser drawer, an upside down opened umbrella, a stack of folded laundry, flopped over the arms of a stuffed chair and finally under the covers with their sleeping human.  As usual the dog is pushing his human to the side.  One arm and leg of the boy are over the edge already.  On the floor lies the stuffed teddy bear looking aghast at their current spot.

If you want humor with perfect touches of warmth, How To Be a Dog written and illustrated by Jo Williamson is definitely the book for you.  As a read aloud get ready to share laughter with your listeners.  I can see this book being used to generate lists of other dog habits necessary to find happiness in a human home.  Then it would be fun to take those things and picture a particular doggy trait in action.  This is charming with every page turn and comes highly recommended.

To discover more about Jo Williamson please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  She has a series of images from this book for you to view.  My favorite one can be found at the publisher's website along with others.  Enjoy the book trailer.


  1. Oh, this book has been on my TBR list, Margie! I can't wait to read it! Thank you for this wonderful recommendation and for sharing Xena's hilarious puppy antics! They put a big smile on my face. XO

    1. It's the little details along with the comparisons between the text and pictures which will have you laughing. You are welcome. Xena was most definitely a producer of big smiles.

  2. Margie, This book sounds wonderful. Love the ISBN detail. I'm sure Xena would have had some suggestions for the author. Great review!

    1. It is truly hilarious Robin. When I saw the ISBN element I burst out laughing. Xena would have loved to give Jo some hints. Thank you.

  3. Love reading/seeing your memories of Xena, from daffodils to snow. A friend for all seasons.

    1. Thank you Madelyn. She was always on the move; a merry soul year round. Nothing stopped her.

  4. I am loving your dog book posts and the stories you share about Xena. She sounds delightful, and I'm sure you miss her greatly.


    1. Thank you Catherine. She was a truly unique personalty. I miss her with every single breath I take.